Lea Salonga becomes a Disney legend

by Yong Chavez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 21 2011 11:17 AM | Updated as of Aug 22 2011 03:53 AM

ANAHEIM, California – A rousing applause greeted Lea Salonga as she went up on stage to receive her recognition as a Disney Legend.

Twelve outstanding talents were recognized by the company for their lasting contributions to Disney’s legacy.

Salonga was the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in "Aladdin" and Fa Mulan in "Mulan" and "Mulan 2."

"I'm really usually great shooting from the hip, but right now I’ve just been rendered speechless by this," Salonga said when she received her award.

"This is a really big deal. It's wonderful for all these princesses to be honored in such a wonderful way by the Walt Disney Company," she added. "To the Walt Disney Company, thank you so much."

The Disney Legends program was established in 1987 and its recipients are chosen by top Disney executives.

Salonga is the first Filipina to receive the award.

Previous awardees include Tom Hanks, Elton John and Barbara Walters.

The awarding was held at the D23 Expo, a 3-day event for Disney fans that drew the biggest Disney enthusiasts from all over the world.

Salonga performed the theme song of "Mulan," and then sang with the other voices of beloved Disney characters, including Belle from "Beauty and the Beast," Ariel of "The Little Mermaid," and Princess Tiana of "The Princess and the Frog."

The audience rose to give her a standing ovation, and Salonga admitted to becoming emotional when she saw the crowd’s response.

"It's pretty amazing," Salonga said. "I'd like to think that my trip through my life and my career hasn't stopped yet."

Salonga said that although she has officially hit middle age at 40 years old, she feels that things can only get better from now on.

"I don't know that it can get better than this, but I have a feeling it's still going to," she said.

Salonga’s fans who were at D23 rejoiced with her.

"To have her on stage, to be applauded by 4,000 people and get an award for having wonderful talent is a great piece of recognition to have," said Elvynn Oropilla.

"It's every little girl that's grown up's fantasy to be able to see one of the most iconic voices when it comes to women’s empowerment and cartoon movies. It's phenomenal," said Alyssa Label.

Salonga's success is particularly notable because she got it when it was much more difficult for Filipino talents to be recognized as world class talent.

With the advent of YouTube and other social media platforms, many Filipinos have found success via viral videos.

But to have longevity and industry respect, Salonga said that talent and skill should be tempered with discipline, something that she got from her training in theater.

"To everyone that has kept the magic going, thank you so very much," Salonga said.

Apart from the Disney Legends sculpture, Salonga will also have a bronzed handprint that will be displayed at the Walt Disney headquarters in Burbank.